Written your CV? Check. Sent off your application and cover letter? Check. Received interview offers? Check. Prepared for your interview? …Oh no! Securing those summer placements has to be one of the scariest struggles every pharmacy student finds themselves in, but with correct preparation for your application and interview, they are so easy to obtain. This year, I was lucky enough to secure three summer placements in the heart of Manchester; a community placement, a hospital placement and a mental health placement. Unfortunately, this did derive from three interviews in the space of one week, a week before my January exams!
Firstly, it’s important to know that no one interview is easier than the next, regardless of whether it’s in community or hospital. Every interview will have its challenging questions and times when you will need to test your thought process to deliver a response that will impress your interviewers. How can you impress your interviewers? PREPARE! PREPARE! PREPARE!
Before you walk into your interview, do your research. Think about what the interviewers know of you so far and think back to those days when you were applying through UCAS for your place on a pharmacy course. The first thing all interviewers see is your application form and what you have written about. You may have written about what you do at university, or what you like about the pharmacy you’re applying to, and therefore it’s very important that you check up on this. I always handwrite my application forms as a draft because not every online system sends me back my responses upon application submission. It’s also important to read what you wrote to prevent any contradiction during interview, where an interviewer could easily question you “But in your application, you said this…” #NIGHTMARE. I also like to look up the job description and key facts about the place I’m applying to – it’s very important to demonstrate during an interview that you know what the placement entails and why you’re applying to that specific placement in the first place. If you’ve never gone through an interview before, I’d recommend reading the Pre-registration Interview book by Nadia Bukhari which provides some great situational judgement questions, a favourite of every interviewer! Finally, catch up on your pharmacy news! On the way to my mental health placement interview, I recall reading the Pharmaceutical Journal in the Uber on the way, searching mental health to check out the current news. Within 5 minutes of my interview commencing I was asked to recall an article I’d read recently regarding mental health, which was an absolute success as I described the reallocation of funding to support mental health in teens.
When you walk into the place you’re having your interview, remember first impressions count! It’s better to be early rather than late – says the girl who became best friends with Uber during the week of her interview to save time getting lost! Take pride in your appearance; dress professionally and wear your smile with pride. Interviewers are looking for someone who will click with their team and be easy to interact with during the course of the placement. Interviews can vary from being panel interviews- my hospital one had representatives from each hospital in the trust- to one-to-one interviews- my community interview consisted of a formal interview with the area manager.
Remember that every student walking into those interviews had possibly reeled off similar information as you’re about to offer to the interviewers, so make a unique impression. Attending my hospital placement interview was the hardest, turning up at 4pm to see I was at the bottom of the list of about 30 individuals, I realised I had to seriously pull it out of the bag. I decided to smile my way through and go with the rule: if I could make the most serious interviewer in the room smile, I would be onto a winner. Naturally, describing leaving the comfort of the university in Nottingham to return home for placement left interviewers with the chuckles as I described being in dire need of my northern roots! Needless to say, leaving that unique impression with interviewers gave me the bragging rights of securing that much-needed placement, a position you may find yourselves in too!
To conclude, my key tips are: research, prepare and smile!
Year 4, University of Nottingham
BPSA Information Technology Officer